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HIV & male circumcision fact sheet

Are you considering male circumcision to reduce your risk of HIV infection? 

Find out more about the procedure and the benefits.

What is male circumcision?

Male circumcision is a one-off medical procedure. It removes a fold of skin that covers the head of the penis - the foreskin. Circumcision can be carried out at any age. Circumcision may be performed for medical or religious reasons.

This fact sheet discusses voluntary medical circumcision done in a medical environment by a medical professional.

Male circumcision and HIV prevention

  • The inner foreskin contains cells that HIV targets to enter the body.
  • Small tears or genital ulcers on the foreskin can increase HIV risk.
  • Circumcision only protects men (not women) from acquiring HIV, reducing their risk by 60%.1
  • It does not reduce risk of sexual transmission of HIV onwards to a female or male partner.2

Key facts about male circumcision

Most circumcised men do not experience any effect on...

  • sexual desire or satisfaction
  • erectile function
  • penetration
  • pain during sex
  • size of their penis.3

Important to know before circumcision

  • Do not masturbate or have sex until 6 weeks after circumcision
  • Having unprotected sex before healing increases your risk of infection
  • Circumcised men who are living with HIV can still transmit HIV
  • Circumcision does not give 100% protection – still use condoms
  • Follow the aftercare advice given by your healthcare provider
  • Test regularly for HIV and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).4

The step-by-step process

  • Pre-cirumcision consultation
  • HIV & STI test offered
  • Informed consent
  • Appointment booked
  • Medical procedure in medical setting
  • Post-circumcision consultation
  • Follow up appointments
  • Refer a friend!

Female circumcision

Female circumcision (or female genital mutilation - FGM) is a completely different procedure to male circumcision.

  • It has no health benefits
  • It causes extreme harm to girls and women
  • It does not protect against HIV
  • It is illegal in many countries.

It must not be considered as an HIV prevention initiative like male circumcision.5

Know your rights

You have the right to:

  • refuse circumcision
  • be circumcised by a medical professional
  • be circumcised at any age.


Last full review: 
01 March 2016

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Last updated:
10 May 2017
Last full review:
01 March 2016